Stoney Ridge Farm

  (Davisburg, Michigan)
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Sustainable Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holistic approach to living off our land

 

It has been an impressive, educational and rewarding last few years participating in the local food movement.  On the farm we have learned to grow beautiful vegetables.  Raise chickens for both their eggs and meat. Taken advantage of the blackberry stands and fruit from our trees.  Maintain a year round herb garden that seasons our summers as well as the soups and stews throughout the long winter.  We  continue to contribute to our local economy by purchasing from other local producers the foods that we don’t produce ourselves.  

The next step in this evolution is something that we have embraced for years, and want to spread awareness to others, is the resources for food that are are all around us that are very inexpensive and will further your education of your own environment. 


The first of witch is wild game.  Once relied on heavily as one of the few available protein sources for families. Throughout our country, wild game has fallen back to something seldom considered unless offered as a fine dining entrée and has been transformed to a nuisance/hazard of destruction to flower beds, golf courses, lawns and automotive front ends.


In actuality, wild game is a delightful, delicious local food source that should be utilized and enjoyed by all.


I think we all have a story of a wild game dinner offered by a hunter friend who served, with great pride and fan fair, an after season plate of very well, over-seasoned, curled ended, piece of shoe leather that was more like the sole of a flip flop having been left all summer on the boardwalk of Coney Island.  I know, it is a painful memory.


But what if I told you that this fall and over the holidays we served 1-1/2 “ Venison steaks, grilled, seasoned only with salt pepper and a hint of garlic, served medium rare with balsamic roasted brussel sprouts.  Or wellington of venison, maple glazed root vegetables and roasted garlic mash potatoes.  How about a broiled wild duck breast, or Canadian goose, sliced and served over a parsley pesto with wild rice and roasted veggies.  Now doesn’t that sound better.  


So, your not a hunter and thinking, “how do I get a hold of some of this great eats”?  Here are a few suggestions.  If you have a friend who is a hunter, strike up a conversation vent about how your flower beds have been ravaged last summer and you want revenge.  You have found a great recipe for venison and could you have them over for a game dinner. They bring some of the meat and you’ll cook it up. Be creative.  Most hunters are happy to share in their bounty and it is a great way to socialize at the same time.


Hunting in Michigan offers additional opportunities for multiple tags for game at a nominal cost to the hunter.  If you let them know you are interested in game in your freezer, you may be giving them a great reason to get out and hunt some more.  If your neighborhood allows hunting with a bow, offer to let hunters hunt on your property. In return for the favor most will offer you some of their success. It may also help thin down your local deer herd and other game, such as rabbits and reduce the browsing in everyones flower beds.


If you are the designated chef of the evening, hear are a few things I recommend to make it a success.


Less is more.  Keep seasoning simple.  Salt, pepper and maybe one or two other fresh herbs.


If your marinade or other ingredients come from a bag, bottle or jar, leave them in the pantry.  Fresh herbs and ingredient will let the game shine through.


Never, ever, serve wild game cooked past “just medium”. I strongly recommend not past medium rare.  Any more time on the grill or under the broiler and your better off just calling for a pizza.


Cooking times will be much faster than farm raised meat.  The fat content of game is considerably less, that’s a good thing, and in most cases only needs to be seared on both sides and it’s about done.


Stumped on how to cook your own wild game or someone else's?  Drop me a note and I’ll get your meal on the right path.


Now get out their and get in the game!

 

 

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When Does The Harvest End?

When Does the Harvest End ?

 

It is so exciting for me to think that on December 16th  I was able to harvest potatoes and rutabaga from our garden.


It started with creating our menu for Christmas dinner and wanting to incorporate something from our own land into the feast.  All of my friends had put their gardens to bed for the winter by the end of November and put up the last of their seasons harvest into their cold cellar or in jars.  I would normally have followed their lead, but I have been spending much of my free time in the pursuit of our local deer harvest, check out my blog, “ Holistic approach to living off our land “.


So we will enjoy on Christmas day a mixture of purple, red skinned and yukon gold potatoes with butter and parsley along with a big family size bowl of frost sweetened rutabaga seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.  A nice addition to the rest of the meal offerings.  Yum! 


The great thing about having a home garden?  Their is always something new to learn and experience.  For those of you who have not yet considered growing potatoes or rutabaga, plan a spot in the garden for them next year.  They are fun to grow, a treat to eat, and from your own hands to your own table.


Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


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Celebrate the first treasures of the garden

I had been away for the last week and couldn’t wait to check the garden to see how it had been doing in my absence.  As is always a concern when I am away: did we have enough rain, deer browsing and other critters sampling my work?   I was pleasantly surprised to find minimal browsing and adequate rain left my efforts bounding in growth and the first flowers from the zucchini and yellow squash.  I was only able to wait 24 hours before I took the first finger length squash with their blossoms attached.  I can hear many of you thinking “ blossoms attached “? That’s right -- attached. The blossoms are edible, and when stuffed gently with a herbed ricotta cheese they jump from delicious to incredible.


When you pick the squash, be very gentle with the flower, as they break away with little effort.  When you get them back to your kitchen, carefully open the flower and remove the pistil and stamen, as they do not taste good.  They are shown in the foreground of the photo.  Rinse the squash and place them in cold water so they stay fresh while you add your herb to the ricotta.  Tonight I think basil & chive will do nicely when sautéed in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Bon appetite!

 

 



Cooking tip: After mixing in your herbs, ricotta, pepper, shape them into table-spoon footballs and chill them in fridge or briefly in the freezer.  This will ensure the cheese will be ready when the veggie is done. Just prior to cooking, place the cheese into the blossom and twist the end of the flower to hold in the cheese. 


Use your imagination for the next meal of squash blossoms and get out there and enjoy your garden and kitchen!

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Summer 11 - take 1 - and action!

 It has been a while since my last entry, but this is a busy time of year at the farm.  After a sleepy winter and a great sugaring season, the spring ritual of cleaning and prepping the gardens has taken up a lot of time, albeit very enjoyable. 


We all know that when the sun opens up the soil and the threat of frost is reduced to the not-so-likely zone, it becomes a race to get the mulch delivered and cut and compost the dried remnants of last year’s flowers, stalks and ferns.  Timing the purchasing of our plants before the crowds have taken all the best and get them in the garden ASAP.  Oh, and start the meat and egg laying flocks for the summer.  Whew, and that’s a wrap.  Now, time to take a moment: Take in all your hard work and give nature a chance to pull the rope for a while.


Today, I think I will do just that.  The sun is out, a light summer breeze is dancing with the grasses in the field and I can’t help but think of the Tuscany region of Italy.  So I think today will be our first picnic of the season.  We have some roasted chicken, we can make some quick slaw from savoy cabbage and I think a bright citrus sauvignon blanc will round it off nicely.  I enjoy picking a spot on the farm that offers a view not often taken to add a new perspective.  


How about you do the same with your family and a few friends?


You deserve it.


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Spring begins with asparagus

 

 

 

One of the great sendoffs to the season of spring has been the anticipation of our first shoots of green goodness pushing up from the warming soil.  I am talking about asparagus.  It arrives at a time when our food stores from last year’s garden are limited to some onions, potatoes and a few hard squashes. 


Suddenly in the late days of April, stalks of asparagus will appear, offering a fresh green vegetable full of nutrients and vitamins that are absolutely delicious.  Few have the opportunity to enjoy the bright flavor of asparagus picked just that morning.  I know that in the grocery stores asparagus is offered virtually year round but again you have to ask the question: How far has it traveled to get to your plate?  One thing I can tell you for certain, is that there is not a store in the country that can rival the enjoyment and flavor from asparagus picked from your own garden.  This incredible veggie can be harvested from its first awakening in late April all the way through the fourth of July.  So prolific is this plant that ten or so will feed all of your family and friends.


The best part of growing asparagus is that it keeps coming back every year and requires very little effort once it has been planted.  It was ten years ago we planted some at Stoney Ridge Farm and it has been a celebration every year.


So how do you get in the asparagus game?  It starts at the root. Yes, you will actually be purchasing the root and planting it.  So here goes the process that will profoundly launch you to another culinary plateau. 


Consider where you may want to plant some of these jewels of spring. Remember that they will be back every year.  After the harvest season they need to be allowed to fern up to fortify the roots for the next season.  The ferns will grow up to four feet tall and are a beautiful sight with a fall frost.  So give it some thought from an aesthetic standpoint.


The roots can be purchased from most garden stores and are not expensive. They will be offered at different ages, usually from one to three years old.  I selected three-year-old roots, as they can offer a limited harvest even the first year of planting. (Sorry, I’m impatient.)


After selecting the area to plant the roots, dig a trench twelve inches wide and eighteen inches deep, allowing a one-foot spacing in the trench between each root.  This sounds like work, I know, but spread this short moment of effort over the next thirty years of free, fresh asparagus and the pain will melt away.  Besides, if you have kids, let them experience the business end of the shovel. Problem solved and they get dinner.


Place the root into the trench top side up. Directions come with the roots.  Spread the fingers of the roots out and cover with about six inches of soil.


Now the cool part: When the roots sprout and start to peek out from the first layer of soil -- a very exciting time, I might add -- place another four inches over the top of the sprouts.  Repeat this process until the trench soil is level with the surrounding grade.  The rest is left up to nature.


Once the sprouts are established, go ahead and try a few. Remember that the first season is to get the roots to fortify and establish.  The next season you are going to have a gold mine.


For those of you that have your own patches, spread the word and comment, it well help the shy ones to give it a try.


Have a question? Then ask away.


Note: Not only will this provide your family with another great food source, but will     add to the resale value to your home.


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Learning to live off the land and promote local agriculture.

The Detroit Free press, several years ago, had an interesting article by Samantha Gross titled “When the oil runs dry.”  While the focus of the article was on the concern for oil prices and the world demand versus supply, it posed the question: What if the cost per gallon of gas went to the point that families had trouble being able to afford fuel for transportation and more importantly, afford the foods that may be affected by high transportation costs?


I have always been concerned regarding social specialization and the effect of a disruption in the many goods and services that so many of us depend upon on a day-to-day basis.  When I visit the many large cities or drive around the suburbs of those cities, I cannot help but wonder about the “what ifs.”  In these concentrated areas of humanity, should the food supply be disrupted even for a relatively short time or a regional emergency cut off communities from one or another, what infrastructure can they fall back to to supply its families who have been enjoying three meals a day?


Do I think we are a midst a potential disaster or crisis?  No, I do not, but I do think it important that communities be concerned about where their food sources are located.  Do I think every city block should devote several acres of land to local food production?  Well, perhaps as a community garden, it would be a good thing.  The scale I would like to see is, say within a township area, a number of small farms that supply seasonally fresh vegetables, meats and dairy to the local community.  Such encouragement could even evolve into the production of local artisan products like cheeses, cured hams and honey, to name a few.  Some of these successful farms may even reach the scale and reputation of products like Prosciutto de parma or Parmesan Reggiano.


Another important lesson to glean from the Detroit Free press article is that all of us should have some basic skills in growing our own food, whether it is a full garden or a small area dedicated to the herbs we use in our own kitchens. Ether way, it makes for a great education and, most importantly, good eats.

Is there a Prosciutto de Rose (Rose Township) in our future?


So what say you?

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